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Research Report

Ticking the box:: elections in Sudan

Jort Hemmer
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2009
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 45
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. iv-iv)

    In Sudan, the country’s first national elections since ending more than two decades of war are planned for April 2010. This report aims to deepen the understanding of the context in which these elections are to take place and to assess their possible impact. To this end, it first briefly explores the rationale behind the post-conflict ballot, before moving on to consider the framework of Sudan’s 2010 elections, the nature of the Sudanese state and politics, contemporary flashpoints, and the calculations of key political players. On the basis of that analysis, four different scenarios for the elections will be identified....

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    Few would dispute the notion that conducting elections in societies at risk of or emerging from violent conflict is a complex undertaking fraught with difficulties. But while the prevailing belief during the 1990s was that elections were necessary for generating sustainable peace and development, in recent years, the rationale behind organizing them in such unpromising circumstances has been increasingly called into question. In his latest book, Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places (2009), Paul Collier stresses that competitive elections in themselves do not provide an easy way out for low-income countries that are experiencing protracted political violence. He...

  3. (pp. 3-6)

    The establishment of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 brought an end to Sudan’s 22-year civil war. The CPA constitutes a deal between the Khartoum-based government of Sudan, represented by the National Congress Party (NCP), and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), a former southern rebel group.⁵ In addition to several other arrangements, the CPA provides for an interim period of six years during which the country is ruled by a Government of National Unity (GNU) that represents both parties, as well as for an autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). Ultimately, the interim arrangement paves the way...

  4. (pp. 7-10)

    An appreciation of the likely impact of the 2010 elections must start with an understanding of the particularities of the Sudanese state and the workings of Sudanese politics. In this regard, two features stand out and are worth explaining in some detail. One is that Sudan is characterized by a hyper-dominant but chronically unstable political centre. The other is the structural weakness of the country’s formal political institutions, leading to a particular type of political conduct, which revolves round a marketplace of loyalties based on patronage.15

    The extreme political and socio-economic disparities between the country’s centre and peripheral areas are...

  5. (pp. 11-14)

    Sudan has not witnessed a single easy day since the ink dried on the CPA. Nevertheless, it is no exaggeration to say that, at present, the country truly stands at a critical juncture. Implementation of the various provisions of the CPA is running far behind schedule, while the six-year interim period is entering its final phase. With the 2010 poll and the 2011 referendum approaching, the NCP and the SPLM face a discouragingly long list of difficulties yet to overcome. Numerous potential and existing sources of conflict can be identified, some of which are expected to have a significant impact...

  6. (pp. 15-20)

    Without playing down the many technical and operational difficulties associated with organizing Sudan’s 2010 elections, it can be said that the biggest challenges will unquestionably stem from the political context in which they are to take place. In tense and turbulent times, Sudan’s ruling parties each have their own interests and objectives informing their attitude towards the forthcoming poll.

    “As the NCP approaches its twentieth year in power, the Khartoum regime continues to exercise its well-practiced ‘divide-and rule’ and ‘delay-and distract’ tactics to great effect”, Gérard Prunier and Maggie Fick aptly observe in a recent strategy paper.22 The NCP indeed...

  7. (pp. 21-24)

    Sudan is nearing the endgame of the CPA transitional period. With a multitude of thorny issues to deal with in seemingly too little time, the frequently used strategy of simply extending the search for solutions is increasingly losing its viability. The level of trust between the NCP and the SPLM is dangerously low and there are clear indications that both sides are building up their military capabilities in preparation for a possible return to war. Yet it is safe to say that neither party has a short-term interest in new large-scale armed conflict, if only because it would paralyse the...

  8. (pp. 25-28)

    It hardly needs to be emphasized that the troubled state of Sudan is in need of democratic transformation. Ultimately, durable stability will be achieved only if the country’s excessive centralisation of power and wealth is modified, and this calls for a change of governance. But experiences in other post-conflict countries working towards such governance reform have learned that this tends to entail a long and difficult process, in which even perfect elections can, at best, form only a first step. Moreover, the preceding analysis indicates that it is highly doubtful whether the 2010 elections will in any way serve this...